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MadMickyG
April 28th, 2017, 07:36 AM
I originally wrote this from a male's perspective, but change the main character to a woman, as I entered it in to a woman's magazine competition. This is the 'unedited for the Forum' version. Will see how it goes. Enjoy. :)

The Debt

Rachael sat slumped in the hospital chair. Her father, looking like some mad scientific experiment, lay in the hospital bed next to her. His heart attack had almost been the end of him, if not for the work of the ambulance officers. Somehow, they had resuscitated him. Now he lay in bed, tubes and leads hanging from most parts of his body, the cardiac monitor beeping slowly. No one, not even the doctor, would tell them how bad his condition was, but Rachael had kept at them constantly, until the doctor eventually came to talk to her.

“I’m sorry Miss Bryce,” he said to her, “your father has had a major heart attack. At the moment, he’s in a deep coma. Unfortunately his body is shutting down systematically, which means he’s not likely to last the night. It’s a miracle he’s lasted this long.” He knew it would be painful for her, but he believed she should know.

“Would you like me to tell your mother?” he asked, hoping she would say no.

“I think I would prefer to tell her myself thanks Doc’,” she replied shakily, not exactly sure how she should handle it. She knew, however, that her mother would prefer to hear it from someone close. The doctor left her alone with her father, giving her a little time to think of how she would tell her mother the bad news. Rachael was glad her two sisters were here to comfort their mum. If Richard were here, he would know what to say. The big question was, where was their brother? Was he coming? Did he know? Rachael had left a message on his answering machine. Her unreliable brother wouldn’t get the message though, he was never home. He was always too involved in his own petty life to worry about anyone other than himself. Rachael cursed herself, angry for letting her own personal problems seem more important. She watched a male nurse she hadn’t seen before, come in and examine her fathers’ chart.

“Your father isn’t doing too well, is he,” the nurse said. Rachael looked at him curiously.

“Strange thing for a nurse to say,” Rachael thought to herself, but to the nurse she said “No, but he’s hanging on. He’s always been stubborn.”

“That he has,” the nurse said under his breath, not loud enough for Rachael to hear properly. He replaced the chart, then moved next to the bed, placing his hand on the dying mans’ forehead. She was about to ask him to repeat what he said but he turned, a look of concern on his face.

“I think you should get the rest of your family in here,” he said. Rachael wanted to ask why, but detected an urgency in his voice. She hurried to the lounge, where her sisters sat with their mum.

“The nurse said we should be with Dad,” Rachael told them. They helped her mother stand, her body aching from all the tears she had wept. When they returned to the room, the male nurse was gone. Surrounding his bed, each placed a hand on one of his arms. To their surprise, he opened his eyes, a smile slowly forming on his face.

“It is goo…….good to see you all here,” he said slowly. His smile faded as he looked around.
“Where’s Rich?” he asked, his voice the sound of sandpaper being rubbed together. Rachael didn’t want to upset her dad, but she had never lied to him.

“Richard’s………umm……..” Rachel stuttered.

“…right here Dad,” came a voice. They all turned. Richard, his eyes wide open in disbelief, stood in the doorway. He leapt to the bed, his eyes welling with tears. His father looked up at him, smiling.

“Good to see you son,” he croaked. Rachael could see Richard was fighting to hold back the tears.

“So you got my message?” Rachael asked, using all her strength to control her anger towards her brother.

“What message?” Richard asked. “Some guy at the track was talking about how his old man had died a few weeks ago in hospital.” Rachael rolled her eyes at his mentioning of the race track. Richard wiped the tears from his eyes before continuing.

“The last thing this guy said to his dad is that he wished he was dead. Now he wishes he could take back all the bad stuff he said to him before he died. That got me thinking about you, Dad. So I rang your place, Mom, to talk to him, but Aunt Anne answered the phone and told me about his heart attack. So I came straight here.” No one said a word; Richards’ story sounded a little strange. Reaching out, Richard put his hand on his fathers’ shoulder. The smile returned to the old mans’ face as he looked at his family, then he turned and looked at the empty space beside Rachael, whispering the words ‘thank you’. Rachael felt a chill beside her, right where her father was staring. He looked at his family for the last time, mouthing the words ‘I love you all’ before closing his eyes. The cardiac monitor changed from a slow pulse to a single constant line, setting of an inbuilt alarm. That’s when they knew he was gone. They were silent for a moment, not quite ready to believe he was dead. Then, in a tidal wave of emotion, the tears came. They held each other as the nurses came in to cover him, offering their condolences. Rachaels’ mum, having already talked it over with the three girl, had signed a form earlier to not resuscitate her husband the next time his heart stopped.

“Could you tell me where the male nurse is, the one that was in here before?” Rachael asked one of the nurses.

“I beg your pardon, did you say male nurse?” she replied, giving Rachael a funny look. “You must be mistaken. There hasn’t been a male nurse on this floor for the last two years.” Rachael was about to disagree with the nurse, but her mother started wailing loudly. Rachael thought now was not the best time to pursue this, but she would make enquiries later. The three girls helped their mother to her car, Rachael saying she would stay behind to handle the hospital paperwork, while the others took their mother home. Rachael was thinking about the male nurse while she filled out form after form, but it eventually got lost in the piles of forms she had to fill out.

The next week felt like a dream. Everything was a reminder of their father, their minds filled with memories of the man they knew. The day before the funeral, Rachael was asked to find a good picture of her father for the funeral, her mother was still too upset to find one. To her dismay, Richard had asked to help. They would have to search through all the photo albums stored in the garage. The two, without a word to each other, started sorting through the enormous collection of albums piled up in the corner. Both were quite exhausted when they reached the last few, but they hadn’t found a decent picture yet. Rachael picked up an album with a dull blue cover, faded gold borders showing its’ age. She was about to open it, when Richard said something she didn’t quite hear.

“What?” she asked, her body tensing in anticipation of what she thought he said.

“I said I’m sorry Rache’,” he repeated. A smile slowly formed on her face. Richard mistakenly took this as a good sign. When she stood slowly, her grip on the photo album turning her knuckles white, he realised he was wrong. She looked at him, the smile like a line set in concrete. With unexpected speed, she hurled the album at him like a discus, too fast and accurate for him to avoid. It struck him in the chest, sending him staggering backwards in complete surprise. When he looked at her, the smile was gone.

“What exactly are you sorry for, Richard?” she said with venom, “the fact that you hired a stripper for Gregs’ bucks night. Or are you sorry that he had sex with her, and you didn’t.” She was walking towards him slowly, moving like a predator. “Maybe you’re sorry that he ran of with her two days before our wedding, and that YOU didn’t! The reason I say this is because I know that there is no way in hell you would ever be sorry for RUINING MY GOD DAMN LIFE!” She leapt at him, her claws out. Richard was too slow, his body moving as though he was underwater. She landed on him, clawing and punching at his face, cursing as she struck at him. He fell down, her small frame, powered by anger, forcing him to the ground. He held his arms up in defence, her nails tearing at his flesh. When she was too exhausted to continue, she fell off him, crying, curling herself up into a ball.

“You ruined my life,” she said softly, “I hate you.” Richard lifted himself up off the floor, a look of sorrow on his face. His arms were covered in blood, but he did not feel the pain. All he felt was the hole inside him, the chasm that had suddenly opened up when Rachael screamed at him, when she said she hated him.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, “but you’re wrong, about everything.” He slumped against a wall, cradling his wounded arms. Rachael looked up at him, still full of anger, but she was curious about what he had said. He winced as he ran a bloody hand through his hair. She could see tears rolling down his face.

“She wasn’t just a stripper Rache’, she was my girlfriend. I didn’t ask her to do the bucks party, she volunteered.” The tears increased as he talked.

“When you were down in Melbourne, I invited Greg out. He just seemed a bit lonely without you around, I thought a night out might cheer him up a bit. So I took him to meet my new flame. What I didn’t know, was that the two already knew each other. God, they had even dated a few times. I found out later, the two got together quite often afterwards. I can say for sure they weren’t talking about either of us.” Rachael stared at him, watching the tears roll down his face, hers having dried up from sympathy for her brother.

“But the wedding was a year after my trip to Melbourne,” she said in disbelief.

“I know,” he nodded, “they’d been screwing around behind our backs for almost a year. Then they decide to take off, together. That’s why I wanted to help you today, I wanted to tell you.” He shifted uncomfortably. With a terrible realisation, she knew he was telling the truth. All the signs had been there, the late hours at work; business trips and weekend meetings. She hadn’t seen it. Why hadn’t she seen it? Why had she had been so blind? Worse than that, for the past two years she’d been angry at her brother, when she should’ve been angry at Greg.

“Why didn’t you say anything before now?” she asked, shuffling over to him.

“I’m the black sheep, remember. As soon as things go wrong, all fingers point at me. No one would listen to me, so I didn’t bother. I just left.” Rachael sat next to him, putting her arm on his shoulder.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t. No one did. I just kept it inside, kept to myself as usual. It was wrong, for your sake, and for us. But anyway, now you know.” He turned, whispering sorry again, as they both leaned forward and hugged each other. They stayed that way for a while, trying to make up for all the time they had lost. Rachael sat back, looking at his arms.
“I am sorry about this,” she said, indicating his bleeding arms.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it,” he said waving a hand dismissively, “you were probably overdue for a good venting.” She laughed weakly. That’s the brother she knew, the brother she remembered and the brother she could love. She stood up, helping him to his feet.

“We’ll find that picture for mom after we get you patched up,” she said, bending down to pick up the album she had thrown.

“We’re here now,” Richard said, “we might as well find the photo first.” As she turned over the album she had thrown at him, she froze. She stared in disbelief at the newspaper article under the protective plastic sheet. The article had a photo of two young men, the man on the right was their father. The man in the picture on the left, to Rachaels’ complete amazement, was the male nurse from the hospital. What was even more incredible was that the date at the top of the article meant the picture was taken thirty-five years ago, yet the nurse looked the same as Rachael had seen him a week ago. Richard, seeing the surprised expression on her face, looked to see what had made his sister mute.

“What the hell?”

“What’s the matter?” Rachael asked, looking at him. Richard pointed to the man shaking hands with his father.

“That’s the guy from the track I told you about,” he replied, a little astonished, “what the hell’s he doing in an old picture with Dad?” Rachael looked back at the picture. Maybe the answer was in the article. Although the print was faded, it was readable. Rachael started reading out loud.

Aaron Tyler Bryce was arrested Monday morning, following a high-speed car chase with police. His passenger, a Phillip Arthur Doyle, was reportedly in a hurry to see his wife, who had been involved in a near fatal car accident. Mr Bryce, a taxi driver for seven years, claimed his passenger had expressed urgency in reaching the County Hospital, where his wife had been taken, reportedly in a critical condition. The police arrested the thirty year old taxi driver for dangerous driving, dangerous use of a motor vehicle and evading arrest. According to reports, Mr. Doyles’ wife died approximately ten minutes after they arrived at the hospital. Although extenuating circumstances were evident, police had no hesitation in charging the taxi driver. According to further investigation, Mr Bryce lost his taxi licence due to charges. There has been an outcry at the punishment of the Aaron Bryce, by both family and friends of the passenger and the public, but apparently the law is the law.

The two looked at each other. They had been told how their dad, when he was younger, had done a good deed, that had cost him his job. He had always stood by his actions, something he tried to instil his children. Richard looked at the news article on the other side. When he cursed, Rachael looked at it, and could not believe her eyes. The article was dated a week after the first one, had a picture of the man, Phillip Doyle, standing next to the coffin of his deceased wife. Again, Rachael read the article out loud.

A man investigating a terrible stench, thought to be a sewerage blockage in a neighboring house, discovered the body of Phillip Arthur Doyle at his home on Wednesday evening. Preliminary forensic tests conducted by police believe Mr Doyle had taken his own life by an overdose of anti-depressants, but an autopsy is scheduled for next week. The medication he allegedly overdosed on, had been prescribed by his family doctor after the recent death of his wife, Ann Margaret Murphy. After correspondence with his relatives, we have permission to print the note left by the late Mr Doyle.
‘I apologise for the pain I cause, but I cannot go on without Ann. I wish I could help Aaron Bryce the same way he helped me. All I wanted was to be with Ann when she passed away. So I leave, owing Aaron a debt that I can never repay.’

DATo
April 28th, 2017, 07:05 PM
Once again I must compliment you on creating a very nice piece of work. It is obvious that a lot of thought went into the construction of this story. I think it was worth the time you spent on it. You tend to veer toward (as someone in your first story mentioned) shades of the Twilight Zone and that's fine with me. I like those types of stories. I am also fond of twist endings and employ them in just about all of my own short stories. I must admit that I saw this one coming when Rachael's father was staring into the empty space, but that did not diminish the quality of the ending for me.

There are probably some things which people will take you to task for - details - but for me the story is everything. I hate nit-pickers and so I will refrain from any technical critique and just say that your story was entertaining and that I enjoyed it, and looking past details that's really the bottom line isn't it? Nice work!

MadMickyG
April 28th, 2017, 10:43 PM
Thanks Dato. Feel free to comment if you truly wish. I know I need refinement here and there. That is why I am on this site.
As I said before at the start of the post, I copied and pasted as is. I could have read through and 'fixed' it to the best of my improved knowledge.

But I want to see how it stands on it's own. This story was rewritten around 2001.

:)

Bard_Daniel
May 2nd, 2017, 03:43 AM
Hey MadMickyG,

I liked the story as well and the only thing that I might add is you may want to increase the velocity of the story by trimming out some of it. I know that this might seem hard to do but I think it would increase the overall effects and make the story stronger.

Just my two cents! Thanks for sharing!

Penless
May 26th, 2017, 07:17 AM
Very well written. It caught my interest immediately. 'Why is she slumped? Why is she in a hospital?' and kept it's hooks in me all the way through, layering intrigues so that just before one of my questions was answered another popped up and pushed me to keep reading.

I felt the dialog was a bit too... perfect? Like the speaker had planned out what they wanted to say in advance, and knew they would have the chance to finish their sentences. It felt a bit artificial. People talk differently when there's the uncertainty of not being able to finish speaking.

Have you tried acting out your dialog scenes? I find that often it helps highlight unnatural speech.